May 5, 1961: The First American in Space... From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. was launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. Alan Shepard's first flight into space lasted only 15 minutes and 28 seconds, traveled at a maximum velocity of 5.134 miles per hour, reached an altitude of 116.5 statute miles, and traveled a distance of 303 statute miles.
I vividly remember this event! I was in elementary school and the whole class was so excited-we all sat at our desks around the classroom television set and anxiously awaited the event that had been talked about for so many weeks previously. I remember all the hype - we were going to watch history in the making! I recall how much we looked forward to that monumental event, but before we knew it the 15 minute suborbital flight was over! ...I had hardly gotten settled at my desk!